VA: Beach Councilman More Supportive of Maglev Now

June 25--VIRGINIA BEACH -- It looks as though one of the biggest skeptics of building a maglev -- or magnetic levitation -- train system in the city might be having a change of heart.

Councilman Jim Wood recently rode the Linimo maglev train in Nagoya, Japan, and toured its control center and maintenance facility. He reported his findings to his fellow council members Tuesday.

His conclusion: It could work here.

"I'm not going to say that I'm completely sold," Wood said. "The technology works in Nagoya."

There, magnets built into each train car elevate it 6 millimeters above a steel track, according to Wood's presentation. Linear motors then move it back and forth along a 5.4-mile line.

The system debuted in 2005, Wood said. It has seven stations, travels at an average speed of 20 mph and has nearly 20,000 riders per day.

Wood said the system is substantially similar to one proposed for Virginia Beach by American Maglev Technology, the Georgia-based company behind the failed maglev system at Old Dominion University.

"It's the only operational urban maglev system that uses the same technology as proposed by American Maglev," he said. "The track is identical."

One of the questions raised with maglev technology is whether it can handle steep elevation changes and sharp turns. Wood said Linimo's trains did both.

Officials have been grappling with the best mass transit system, if any, to build here. With maglev unproven in the United States and unapproved by the Federal Transit Administration, traditional light rail has been the more obvious -- although the more expensive -- choice.

State and regional transportation officials have been especially critical of the technology. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne has said the state will not provide funding for a maglev system but has informally agreed to help extend The Tide light-rail line from Newtown Road to Town Center.

Kathy Adams, 757-222-5155, kathy.adams@pilotonline.com

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